Amid the bustle of the 80th Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto, The Gold Report sat down with PDAC President Scott Jobin-Bevans for his take on the challenges the mining industry faces. In this exclusive interview, he covers a wide range of topics, from skilled labor shortages to the trials of mining in remote northern Canada.
The Gold Report: What are the key challenges the mining industry faces in 2012–2013?
Scott Jobin-Bevans: PDAC, under the leadership of newly appointed Executive Director Ross Gallinger, will be conducting a strategic review involving the board of directors, staff and gathering membership input. There are a number of issues facing the association and the industry, and I am sure that human resources challenges will surface as a key issue.
TGR: When you say human resources, what are you talking about specifically?
SJ-B: It’s the skilled workforce: geologists, geophysicists, process engineers, mining engineers, miners and skilled labor. There’s a huge gap between the young people who are out there now and the older ones who know those skill sets from years ago. For instance, we’re nearly missing the 35-to-45 age bracket.
There is a tremendous opportunity for industry associations such as ours, the government, private sector and educators to work together. This is a hugely important sector that represents nearly 3.5% of our national GDP and pays billions of dollars in tax revenue and royalties to the various levels of government.
It presents an opportunity to university students, but it also presents a challenge to the industry. The Mining Industry Training and Adjustment Council led an industry-sponsored study released in 2005 that found that the Canadian mining and mineral industry would need at least 80,000 people in the next 10 years just to replace current jobs. The industry has grown quite a bit since 2005. So, the estimates in Canada are now something like 100,000 jobs will need to be filled in the next 10 years.
TGR: Where are those numbers coming from?
SJ-B: You can find them on the Mining Industry Human Resources Council of Canada’s (MiHR’s) website. The PDAC supported a more recent sector study by MiHR, “Unearthing Possibilities,” which looks specifically at the exploration sector; it’s important to understand that mineral exploration is different than the mining sector. In this study, we were able to show how many women are in mineral exploration, how many people are employed overall and the demographics on the age distribution.
You can see the late ’80s downturn in the 35-to-44 age group when the industry and the economy tanked. People left the industry and never came back. You can also see the effect of the Bre-X scandal and market decline in 1997, which saw the departure of record numbers of professionals from the industry. The report does show an increase in the 25-to-34 age group coming into the industry, which is really encouraging.
The connection between human resources and supplying the metals of tomorrow is that we can still find the mines but we can’t put them in production because we simply don’t have the people. The only way we survive now is by poaching from other projects, so it’s not a healthy environment for industry success.
PDAC has been making efforts in terms of our support for educating the work force of tomorrow. We have a strong program that we support through PDAC Mining Matters that has helped educate nearly 500,000 school-age children about the sector. We’ve got a number of university programs and scholarships but the industry needs to do more.
TGR: What are some of the other challenges facing the industry?
SJ-B: I’m not sure it’s a challenge so much as a new opportunity in Canada in terms of working with First Nations and aboriginal communities, which ties into land access. Canadians are leaders in developing strong dialogues with our aboriginal partners and PDAC is very committed to ensuring our members are equipped and prepared to have those conversations, whether in Canada or abroad.
TGR: Is this a global issue?
For the rest of this interview, please go to The Gold Report website: http://www.theaureport.com/pub/na/12842